One of the reasons I so love this novel lies in Austen's characterization. Personally I think that her main characters are far more subtly drawn than their equivalents in Pride and Prejudice. Ane and Wentworth are older than Elizabeth and Darcy and have each gone through a traumatic emotional experience in their romance. They have experienced the darker side of life and felt anguish and disappointment.
I would agree with Issybird that Austen certainly does feel that Anne was correct to take Lady Russell's advice--though in the event it proved to be incorrect and certainly caused deep, lasting unhappiness in Anne. How could a 19 year old reject the genuine loving concern of someone who was to all intents and purposes a mother-figure? After all, Anne had no one else to turn to and no other from whom she could obtain rational and loving advice.
Wentworth, too, was scarred by the breach. When he had proven himself and returned he harboured an intense indignation which he felt was justified. Darcy deserved to be rejected when he first proposed; Wentworth genuinely believed that Lady Russell had shafted him unfairly--and he is correct in so thinking. But he allowed his resentment to smother his love--and nearly made a disastrous mistake of judgement himself.
Thus, to summarise, Jane Austen creates a wonderful ironic pattern of behaviour. One cannot say that Lady Russell gave bad advice within her own context. Anne would have been wrong to rebel--considering her age. It is completely understandable that Wentworth feels humiliated and hurt and is angry that Anne wouldn't trust him and put her faith in their mutual love. This is a far more complex pattern of relationships than in any previous novel she wrote.
Add to this a magnificent villain in William Elliot. Austen was concerned with the relationship of manners--civilised behaviour--and morals--the underlying ethical beliefs that supported civilised behviour. Here is a character with all the correct externals of manners--beneath them he is utterly wicked--far more so than Wickham. Yet, his affection for Anne is genuine and he has the backing of Lady Russell. Even Wentworth realises that the marriage of Anne and Elliott would be the social optimum for both.
In the end, Elliott is exposed by the ambiguous Mrs Smith. I say "ambiguous" because she actually supports the idea until she realises that Anne has already decided against the union. In Mrs Smith we get another snapshot of the underbelly of Jane Austen's world--not as dramatic or extended as that in Mansfield Park--but perhaps more moving.
There's so much in this novel! I haven't even touched on the ridiculous Sir Walter Elliott who is merely an empty shell of manners and his arrogant daughter Elizabeth. In fact the theme of self-awareness and/or its lack of it is a significant area of concern in this wonderful book.
I never tire of it.
Last edited by fantasyfan; 01-21-2013 at 06:08 AM.